Former Tory whip Chris Pincher has resigned as a Member of Parliament after losing his appeal against an eight-week suspension for groping two men at a private member’s club while drunk.
This decision paves the way for another by-election, adding to the challenges faced by Rishi Sunak’s Conservative party.
Mr. Pincher expressed concern for his constituents in Tamworth, West Midlands, stating that he did not want to impose “further uncertainty” upon them and had already made arrangements to “resign and leave the Commons.”
This resignation sets the stage for a potentially damaging vote for the Tories in the upcoming autumn by-elections, with the Prime Minister acknowledging that these contests will be “difficult” for his party.
The suspension stemmed from Mr. Pincher’s actions, described as an “egregious case of sexual misconduct,” which occurred at London’s exclusive Carlton Club last year. The Commons Standards Committee recommended an eight-week suspension, which, if approved by MPs, would trigger a recall petition.
Such a petition, if signed by 10 percent of constituents, would lead to a by-election.
Avoiding ‘Further Uncertainty’
However, Mr. Pincher’s appeal to reduce the punishment was dismissed by Parliament’s Independent Expert Panel (IEP) on Monday. He responded, “I do not want my constituents to be put to further uncertainty, and so, in consequence, I have made arrangements to resign and leave the Commons.”
Mr. Pincher, who had already resigned from his Government post following the incident, had been sitting in the Commons as an independent since losing the Tory whip.
The Standards Committee’s findings in July deemed Mr. Pincher’s conduct last summer as “profoundly damaging” and an abuse of power, with his actions labelled as “unwanted, inappropriate, and upsetting.”
During his time as an independent MP, taxpayers paid Mr. Pincher £99,184 in salary and £7,920 in ministerial severance, and £13,860 in rent expenses.
This announcement follows former Conservative Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ recent exit from the Commons, which triggered a by-election in Mid Bedfordshire scheduled for October 19.
The Tories have held the Mid Bedfordshire seat since 1931, and Ms. Dorries secured a substantial 24,664-vote majority over the Labour candidate in the 2019 election.
However, the Conservative party remains cautious, given their consistently lower polling numbers compared to Labour in recent national polls. Mr. Sunak acknowledged the challenges posed by mid-term by-elections, but assured reporters that his party would continue working to serve the British people.
By-Election Will Be ‘Difficult’
Mr. Sunak stated: “Mid-term by-elections are always difficult for incumbent governments and these will be no different, but we’re going to keep working hard to deliver for the British people.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer expressed his hopes of securing the Tamworth seat for his party, emphasising the disappointment felt by the people of Tamworth, due to Mr. Pincher’s actions and the Conservative party’s handling of the situation.
He also highlighted his recent reshuffle of the Labour team in preparation for the upcoming election.
Speaking to PA Media, Mr. Starmer said: “The contrast this week couldn’t be starker could it? I’ve just put my top team on the table through the reshuffle that will take us into the election, focusing on the country.”
Labour faces a daunting 21 percent swing requirement to win the seat held by the Conservatives with a 19,000-vote majority in the last election.
Eddie Hughes, MP for Walsall North, has been chosen to represent the Tories for the next general election in Tamworth, due to boundary changes but has opted out of standing during the by-election.
A Tory loss in Tamworth would be an unsettling indicator for other MPs with narrower leads. Labour, while facing a tough fight, showed strength in the recent local elections, gaining eight out of ten council seats, up from just one.